DukeLine: Peer Mental Health Support for Graduate Students (2021-2022)


Over the past five years, college mental health centers around the country have experienced a surge in demand, without a commensurate surge in resources. Notwithstanding limits of access, there are significant barriers to seeking mental health services – particularly for graduate students – including time and financial constraints as well as fear of mental health-related stigma. Yet many colleges and universities are not able to accommodate the growing demand for mental health supports on their campuses.

Peer support programs have been shown to be effective in improving a number of student outcomes including mental health, but these programs are seldom used with graduate students. Thus, peer support programs may be one solution to increase access to supportive services for students while eliminating barriers.  

Project Description 

DukeLine is a peer mental health support program that launched as a pilot among selected undergraduates in Fall 2020. In 2021-2022, this project will focus on conducting the formative work to develop a similar service for graduate students.

The project team will conduct a comprehensive review of existing peer mental health programs for graduate students across the U.S., develop a position statement of best practices, conduct focus groups across various graduate student disciplines, and make presentations to key stakeholders of the Duke administration.

Team members will conduct a literature review to examine support services for graduate student mental health, and survey universities to discern the types of mental health resources provided to graduate students. From this review, the team will create a summary document of best practices to inform the content of the focus group guide.  In addition, this review will serve as the basis of an academic manuscript submission and poster presentation for national conferences related to collegiate health.

The team will produce focus group interview guides and recruit graduate student participants to learn more about their mental health needs and barriers. 

Team members will also prepare presentations about user satisfaction and utilization, share the current status of the program to key stakeholders at Duke and seek support for the broad dissemination of DukeLine to all undergraduates. If successful, the team will continue to broaden the marketing strategy and integration with other campus resources.

Learn more about this project team by viewing the team's video.

Anticipated Outputs

Launch of DukeLine; paper on existing mental health resources for graduate students; data to inform best practices for mental health service delivery for graduate students; presentations at national conferences


Summer 2021 – Summer 2022 

  • Summer 2021 (optional): Analyze data from pilot launch; refine marketing strategy for DukeLine launch
  • Fall 2021: Design online survey to administer to colleges to describe their mental health services for graduate students; conduct program survey of college mental health services for graduate students; design focus group guide; get IRB approval for focus group project; analyze program evaluation data; prepare presentations
  • Spring 2022: Administer focus groups; analyze program evaluation data; prepare presentations; analyze focus group data
  • Summer 2022 (optional): Design mental health program for graduate students; prepare IRB application

See earlier related team, Peer Coaches: Improving Mental Health Treatment for College Students (2020-2021).


Image: DukeLine logo, courtesy of DukeLine website

DukeLine logo.

Team Leaders

  • Talita Ahmed, Arts & Sciences-Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Savannah Erwin, Arts and Sciences–Psychology and Neuroscience–Ph.D. Student
  • Sarah Gaither, Arts & Sciences-Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Guillermo Sapiro, Pratt School of Engineering-Electrical & Computer Engineering
  • Nancy Zucker, School of Medicine-Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Christine Barrett, Psychology (AB)
  • Katherine Buchholz, Psychology (BS)
  • Jacqueline Cruz, Computer Science (BS)
  • Elizabeth Davidson, Biology (BS)
  • Evan Dragich, Psychology (BS), Statistical Science (BS2)
  • Faith Joo
  • Leslie Leal Palacios, Neuroscience (BS)
  • Nayoon Lee, Economics (BS)
  • Aspen Martin, Psychology (BS)
  • Camden Nelson, Biology (BS)
  • Elizabeth Roy, Psychology (BS)
  • Kash Sreeram

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Gary Bennett, Arts & Sciences-Psychology and Neuroscience
  • David Goldston, School of Medicine-Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
  • Amy Powell, Student Affairs
  • Timothy Strauman, Arts & Sciences-Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Thomas Szigethy, Student Affairs
  • Sue Wasiolek, Student Affairs

/zcommunity Team Members

  • iCarol
  • Orange County Rape Crisis Center